Gambling is the wagering of something of value (money or other goods) on an event with a chance of winning a prize, where the outcome is determined by a combination of factors including luck and skill. The term ‘gambling’ encompasses many different types of activities, from placing a bet on a football match to buying a lottery ticket, and the action can take place anywhere.

Various studies suggest that gambling is an addictive activity that can cause a variety of negative consequences, from psychological and emotional distress to family breakdown, work performance issues, financial problems, criminal activity and even suicide. Problem gamblers often experience a high degree of comorbidity with other harmful behaviours and reduced health states, so it is important to ensure that measures for the prevention and treatment of gambling related harm reflect this complexity.

Harm minimisation is a key concept for public health approaches to gambling, and it is common for treatments to make reference to this goal. However, there are a number of problems with the way that gambling related harms are currently defined. First, there is no one consistent definition of harm across treatment providers, researchers and other disciplines who are interested in the phenomena. Second, it is difficult to measure the breadth of harms experienced and the complex inter-relationships between them.

This is reflected in the fact that the majority of existing harm measures are associated with problem gambling diagnosis or behavioural symptoms, and do not capture the range of consequences that can be caused by gambling. The new functional definition is designed to overcome these limitations. It focuses on the experience of harm and avoids being constrained by prescriptive criteria, and it explicitly delineates that harm can be caused by any form of gambling.

Another key feature of the new definition is that it identifies harms as being both direct and indirect. It also acknowledges that gambling is an activity with both low and high levels of risk, and that it is possible to gamble without causing any harm.

To minimise your gambling-related harm, there are a few things you can do. Start by deciding how much money you’re willing to lose and stick to it. If you have a habit of betting more than you can afford to lose, stop immediately. Also, don’t chase your losses; thinking you’re due a win is the gambler’s fallacy. This can lead to further losses and eventually bankruptcy. Finally, never use credit cards to gamble and always keep a small amount of cash on you. By taking these steps, you’ll be able to enjoy gambling safely and responsibly.